#007 Diet Soda is Killing Us: 3 Ways to Kick any Bad Habit
Dr. John Day
Dr. Day is a cardiologist specializing in heart rhythm abnormalities at St. Mark’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah. He graduated from Johns Hopkins Medical School and completed his residency and fellowships in cardiology and cardiac electrophysiology at Stanford University. He is the former president of the Heart Rhythm Society and the Utah chapter of the American College of Cardiology.
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I am a recovering Diet Coke addict. We had soda pop in our home growing up but it was rationed. As kids we were allowed 2 cans of Sprite each week (76 grams of sugar or 19 teaspoons of sugar). I would save mine until Saturday and then have 2 cans after my basketball game. It became a comfort drink for me that was associated with happy memories.
At the age of 16 I got my driver license and could now have it whenever I wanted. My drug of choice was now a 32 ounce Pepsi Big Gulp from 7-11 (123 grams of sugar or 31 teaspoons of sugar).
Through college and medical school I regularly consumed 1-2 liters of Pepsi or Coke each day, depending on what was on sale at the time, to get me through the long hours of studying. It seemed to give me a short burst of energy. It also gave me 224 grams of added sugar each day (56 teaspoons of sugar).
To prevent the energy crash an hour or two after drinking it I would just drink it all day long. Naturally, I developed severe insomnia at night. It never dawned on me that the two could somehow be connected.
In my 30s with my waistline expanding I decided to switch to Diet Pepsi/Coke to help me lose weight. It didn’t work. I had daily headaches. Once again it would be years before I figured out that diet sodas were causing my headaches.
With my health crisis a few years ago I gave it up cold turkey. It was hard and I went through withdrawals. After a couple of weeks I felt so much better and more energetic off the stuff. All of my headaches went away. No longer would I get the energy crash an hour or two after drinking it.
I wish my story ended here but it doesn’t. Even to this day I crave it…
Diet Soda is Killing Women
I was recently in Washington DC giving a presentation at one of the largest cardiac meetings in the world, the Annual Scientific Sessions of the American College of Cardiology. A very big study came out of this conference. Namely that diet soda is destroying women’s hearts.
In this study they looked at nearly 60,000 women with no prior heart disease from the U.S. Women’s Health Initiative. After following these women for an average of 9 years they found that those women who drank 2 or more diet drinks daily (24 ounces) were 50% more likely to die from a heart condition than those women who did not consume diet drinks.
Soda Pop is an American Addiction
According to Gallup research, half of all Americans drink soda pop on a daily basis. 10% of our daily calories in the U.S. now come from high fructose corn syrup, primarily from soda pop. Older, more wealthy, and overweight Americans are more likely to drink diet sodas.
Diet Soda Makes You Fat Except in Studies Sponsored by the Soda Pop Manufacturers
The sad thing is that the more diet soda you drink the more weight you gain! One study even showed that diet soda drinkers gained 70% more weight than non-drinkers over a 10 year period of time.
While many studies have all associated soda pop with weight gain, there is one study that noticeably stands out. This was supported by the soda pop manufacturers. In this very short three-month dieting study, they found that diet soda drinking dieters were able to lose more weight. Perhaps the real reason why soda pop drinking dieters did better in the three short months of this study is because they only had to give up their calories not their diet soda.
Why Are We Addicted to Soda?
Why do we still crave soda pop even though it is making us fat, killing our hearts, and even has know carcinogens from the caramel coloring?
A 20 ounce bottle of Coke has 65 grams of added sugar! We now know that sugar may be as addictive as cocaine.
The stimulant caffeine is another known addictive substance.
3. It is a Comfort Drink
Comfort foods and drinks allow us to “medicate” ourselves when we are not feeling well. I know this is the case for me. Whenever I am feeling tired or overwhelmed I long for a Diet Coke.
3 Ways to Kick Soda Pop or Another Other Bad Habit
1. Change Your Environment
Get soda pop out of your house. Don’t even go anywhere near where it is sold. If you don’t see it you are less likely to crave it. Are there any other triggers? For me, feeling fatigued or a slice of pizza and Coke/Diet Coke went hand-in-hand.
2. Change Your Routine
When I was tired or wanted a slice of the white flour, full-fat, salt loaded pizza I reached for a Coke/Diet Coke. Now when I realize I am feeling tired I will drink a glass of water or eat a fruit and do something physically active. Likewise, if I can avoid unhealthy pizza I lose the urge to also drink a Diet Coke.
3. Take Care of Yourself
If you get enough sleep at night, stay physically active, eat the right foods, connect with others daily, and maintain your own spirituality it can give you the power to resist these temptations and maintain your new healthy habits. It works for me. My cravings always seem to come when one of these things is missing from my life.
What do you think? What things work for you in resisting the temptation of soda pop and other junk foods? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
Disclaimer Policy: This website is intended to give general information and does not provide medical advice. This website does not create a doctor-patient relationship between you and Dr. John Day. If you have a medical problem, immediately contact your healthcare provider. Information on this website is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. Dr. John Day is not responsible for any losses, damages or claims that may result from your medical decisions.
Dr. Day what am I missing in your discussion on diet soda?
When you talk about diet Cokes being an addiction,I get it! But, each time you begin your discussion on diet soda drinks and how they are ruining people’s health, you tend to go the caramel colored soda, or the piece of pizza, or go into the effects of sugar in sodas, plus their addiction to others weight gaining foods!
To what extend will drinking a 16, or 24 oz. DIET SODA like Coke without the other weight gaining foods like pizza, pastas, etc. cause one to gain weight? Is it something else contained in the diet sodas, or, the addiction effect to other weight gaining foods, like pizza-pasta, etc,. or something else contained in the diet drinks, like diet Coke?
Thank you so much for reading and responding. This was one of my earlier articles and I plan on updating it at some point.
You raise some interesting questions. Here is where the science currently is with diet sodas:
1. Many studies have linked diet sodas to diabetes, weight gain, etc. These are just correlated studies and don’t prove that diet sodas are actually the cause.
2. Studies also show that people who drink diet sodas are often overweight and compensate by eating more unhealthy foods (the chocolate cake with the Diet Coke phenomenon). It is possible that the sweetness of these drinks alters brain chemicals causing this chocolate cake and Diet Coke phenomenon.
3. Some potentially harmful strains of gut bacteria thrive on the artificial sweeteners. This could potentially explain the diabetes and weight gain that have been linked to Diet Sodas in some studies.
I wish I had more answers but we really need better studies.